Brain Cells Can Activate Paralysed Limbs

Oct 16, 2008
Scientists claim they found a way to restore the movements of paralysed muscles by activating brain cells.

In a study conducted at the University of Washington scientists used the innovative treatment for paralysis to help monkeys bring back the voluntarily control over muscles that were immobilized by drugs. Chet Moritz, the leading author of the study and his colleagues said that they managed to find a way to keep away from nerve damage by applying special gadget.

In the experiment electrodes were connected to separate neurons in the motor cortex area of monkey's brain to render the electrical activity that was directed to a small computer. From the computer that is the size of a cell phone, the signals are conducted through a stimulator to the wrist muscles that were paralyzed.

It required no more than 10 minutes for the monkeys to restore their movements with this technique. Eberhard Fetz, the co-author of the study explained that this means great potential of the brain to control new cells and restore movements by changing the activity of separate neurons. Using this method, monkeys were able to learn how to manipulate simple video games.

Scietists say that the findings indicate that now it might be possible for people suffering from spinal cord injury or other related problems to restore their movements with the power of their brain. In a study, one neuron was able to activate a muscle with the help of electrodes connected to a certain place in the spinal cord, thus allowing the monkey to perform the necessary activity. "If a monkey can do it, a human should be able to do it even better,"Moritz said.

However, it might take several years before this new technique could be used in humans. Further studies are needed to develop fully implantable system with stable electrodes.